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Detention (2011)

Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 7/31/2012

All Ratings out of




Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/11/2012

As we have all heard, making movies can be very expensive. Not unlike a stay in the hospital, every little thing seems to cost more than one would expect. Therefore, filmmakers must often limit themselves creatively in order to remain within their budget. However, when one is writing a movie, there are no budgets, and therefore, no limits. The writer can let their imagination run wild and put as much into the story as possible. After all, why shouldn't they go for broke. Sure, much of it may be cut if the script actually becomes a movie, but there's no reason to not shoot for the moon. But, there is a huge difference between going for broke and biting off more than you can chew. Detention is the perfect example of this distinction.

Detention introduces us to the students at Grizzly Lake High. Clapton Davis (Josh Hutcherson) is the school's cool dude -- the guy who skateboards through the halls and is loved by everyone (especially the girls), except for steroid-fueled jock Billy (Parker Bagley). Riley Jones (Shanley Caswell) is the school outcast . She's a feminist, a vegan, and her injured foot is in a boot. No matter where she turns, she can't get a break. She also has a crush on Clapton, who has an on-again/off-again relationship with popular cheerleader Ione (Spencer Locke). Meanwhile, resident nerd Sander Sanderson (Aaron David Johnson) has a crush on Riley and Ione. Also, it seems that Riley and Ione used to be best friends until boys entered the picture. While these relationship issues percolate, Principal Verge (Dane Cook) tries to keep the school under control.

All of this sounds like a fairly average teenage drama, right. Well, what you've just read is simply the jumping off point for the convoluted mess that is Detention. The story also includes a killer dressed like a movie character, time-travel, body-swapping, acidic vomit, and sports mascots. The script by Joseph Kahn (who also directed) and Mark Palermo tries to cram enough story for four movies into this one film. Actually, if you were to read an outline of the movie which only focused on the major plot elements, then Detention probably wouldn't sound that bad. It's Kahn's approach to the material and the movie's tone which ruins everything.

For starters, Kahn has applied a hyper-kinetic and ADD style to the movie where things never slow down long enough for anything substantial to occur. (On the other hand, this keeps the viewer from examining the non-sensical nature of most scenes for too long.) I'm actually a huge fan of a moving camera, but the visuals here act like they can't decide on what to focus. On top of this, Kahn has added on-screen graphics which are meant to accentuate certain things. The problem is that this was done much, much better in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World where these elements felt much more organic. The video game generation is accustomed to the "heads-up display" adding text to a visual screen, but the use of graphics here feels forced in a "Hey Mom, look at me!" way.

The other major problem with Detention is the film's tone and its characters. In short, there is no one here to like. Clearly, we aren't supposed to truly like Clapton, as he's too cocky, or Ione, as she's too vapid. I guess we are supposed to like Riley, as she's the hip, indie-rock chick who is too smart for high-school. I can only hope that Riley is supposed to be a spoof of this stereotypical character, as her level of cynicism is pushed so far that it's ludicrous. She hates everyone and everything and it's all beneath her. But, she's still not likeable. This simply leaves the audience as an observer to all of the insane and bizarre things happening in the movie, as opposed to being a participant who truly cares about what happens.

The artwork for Detention makes it look like a horror movie, but it's not. (Although, be warned, it doesn't shy away from gore.) At the outset it looks like the aforementioned Scott Pilgrim vs. The World melded with Scary Movie. But, as the movie progresses, it becomes clear that the movie defies a genre label, as it brings in so many different elements. The problem is that none of these parts ever gel and it feels like the movie is constantly searching for a groove that it can't find. The script actually tries to tie everything together at the end, but at that point, only the most patient of viewers will still be around. Don't bother staying after school for this movie.

Detention actually made me more interested in seeing the movie-within-the-movie on DVD courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The image is never overly dark or bright, and the colors look good. For a DVD, the level of detail is good and the image is never soft. The framing appears to be accurate and there's little blurring of the image. The DVD carries a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The movie has an interesting sound mix, as it's filled with little sound effects (some of which accompany the on-screen graphics) which zip to-and-fro in the front and rear channels. The surround sound effects are good in the crowd scenes and the subwoofer effects add to the "scare" scenes.

The lone extra feature on the Detention DVD is "Cheat Mode: The Unbelievably Mind Melting Making of Detention". When viewers choose this option, they can watch the film with a video commentary which is hosted by Director Joseph Kahn and Co-Writer Mark Palermo. Many members of the cast and crew pop up through various scenes to talk about the making of the movie. The actors talk about their characters and their experiences on the film. (Note, this version is for those brave souls who want to watch the film a second time, as we can't hear the dialogue here.)

Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long